Channel InfluencersInterviews

Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships with Channel Partners

Nirmal Kumar Manoharan, the Regional Sales Director at ManageEngine, speaks to Arabian Reseller about roles and responsibilities of a channel influencer

What is your career history to date and key career achievements?
Over the past years, along with my team, I have been able to successfully create a channel from scratch. We set and implement short- and long-term channel sales strategies for ManageEngine to increase business productivity in the GCC region. Building a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with channel partners has been one of my key focus areas, which resulted in proactively managing joint partner planning processes to increase performance and keep our customers happy.

What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?
As a channel influencer, I am responsible for building strategic plans and defining goals for our partners to achieve. I identify areas where our partners need additional training, and I provide guidance to my team of channel sales managers to help them coordinate with our channel partners to successfully execute our plans in each country and meet business goals set for the year.

What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?
An ideal channel influencer must be able to identify key trends in the market and have the ability to develop well-crafted business goals for the company. Moreover, building a strong relationship with channel partners is the key. Earning their trust by guiding them, providing them adequate training, and encouraging them can definitely boost productivity and eventually help build relationships that last in the long run.

What is your advice on finding success in the channel?
Finding success in channel sales depends on identifying the right partners. Ideally, companies look out for partners with the ability to align with their business goals. But, beyond this is the necessity to build a long term association with the partner, more like a friendship built on trust and mutual value. At ManageEngine, we ensure our partners fully understand our work culture and innovative work environment, which helps them feel more connected with us and what we do. Slowly, our partners become an extension of our company.

Businesses equally share the responsibility in achieving success. Businesses must have well-defined goals in place so that the partners can take strategic steps accordingly. The partners must be given a complete understanding of the goals and be provided with adequate support. What businesses need to understand is that performance might not be immediate and quality always matters over quantity.

How would you assess the current state of the channel?
As businesses are riding the digital transformation wave, the traditional reseller model is fading away. The growth of IaaS has caused a significant shift in the channel sales market and has reduced resellers’ ability to sell only hardware. Many resellers are moving beyond simple order-fulfilment and embracing the VAR model of business. And as the IT market is advancing at a rapid pace, if not a VAR model of business, resellers must consider striking a balance between both the models to gain a competitive edge.

What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?
Customer satisfaction has become a top priority in the market. However, satisfying customers has become more difficult as the IT market continues to evolve and as customers themselves become more IT savvy and sophisticated. In response, the channel has to be just as savvy and sophisticated, if not more so, but what we are seeing instead is a growing skills gap in the IT labor market.

As a result, channel partners aren’t always able to find the IT talent they need to serve, or satisfy, their customers. At ManageEngine, we ensure our partners are well-equipped with IT and product knowledge through frequent training and certification programmes that help them better understand and, ultimately, satisfy customer needs and expectations.

How can partners work effectively to generate growth?
Partners are the closest to our customers and maintain very strong relationships with them. This makes it easier for partners to understand customer issues and challenges in their business, which makes it easier for partners to approach them with our products.

To ensure a satisfying customer experience, partners can provide dedicated implementation and other value-added services. Partners are our ground soldiers and have the opportunity to understand the market in much more detail. They also give businesses the ability to identify key trends and shifts in the market as they are happening, far in advance of those trends and shifts becoming widely known or adopted.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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